The Soufan Group Morning Brief



Enrique Marquez Jr., the man who purchased high-powered rifles used in the San Bernardino shootings, had ties to a group of California jihadists who were arrested in 2012 for attempting to fly to Afghanistan to join Al Qaeda, according to federal prosecutors. This is the first time authorities have linked Enrique Marquez Jr. to other extremists. Associated Press, LA Times

Army Lt. Gen. John Nicholson, the new top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, will complete his 90-day assessment of the situation in Afghanistan this week and provide recommendations to military leaders. Nicholson is widely expected to recommend keeping more troops than planned in Afghanistan. There are currently 9,800 U.S. troops in the country with an expected drop to 5,500 by the end of the year. President Obama is open to “possible modifications” to the U.S. military role in Afghanistan, according to an Obama administration official. Washington Post, The Hill, Associated Press

Reuters: U.S. military sees Afghan talks with new Taliban leader unlikely
Washington Post: How Obama’s Afghanistan plan is forcing the Army to replace soldiers with contractors

Gitmo: Ali Soufan, the FBI agent who interrogated the war-on-terror captive Abu Zubaydah, said on Wednesday that “[Abu Zubaydah’s] case represents the A to Z of where we went wrong as a nation...In a way, it was the original sin that led to the institutionalization of the so-called Enhanced Interrogation Techniques.” Abu Zubaydah was reportedly the first suspect put through the CIA’s post 9/11 interrogation program and is due to testify before the Guantanamo war court this afternoon. Miami Herald

FBI: Yahoo published redacted versions of three national security letters on Wednesday that include FBI requests for customer records and transaction data. Yahoo was able to publish the letters after the FBI cleared an existing gag order on the documents. Last year’s USA Freedom Act requires the FBI to review nondisclosure requirements after an investigation closes or within three years of being opened. The Verge, WIRED

Fort Dix convicts: U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler upheld the life sentences of three brothers who were convicted in 2008 of plotting a terrorist attack on Fort Dix in New Jersey. Algerian-born Dritan, Eljvir, and Shain Duka argued that they had been wrongly convicted because their lawyers prevented them from testifying. Associated Press

The Pentagon announced Wednesday that the United States carried out a drone strike against senior Al Shabab leader Abdullahi Haji Da’ud. Officials were unable to confirm whether the May 27 strike killed Da’ud who was described as one of the group’s “senior military planners and served as a principal coordinator of al-Shabab’s militia attacks in Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda.” Washington Post, Reuters

Somalia: Al-Shabab militants detonated a car bomb and then stormed the gates of a popular hotel in Mogadishu on Wednesday evening, killing at least 15 people and wounding 40 others. Somali officials said that government forces were battling room to room in the hotel against heavily armed gunmen. New York Times, Reuters

Syria: Thousands of U.S.-backed local fighters began a new offensive against ISIS in northern Syria on Tuesday. The operation, which is being supported by a small number of U.S. Special Operations Forces, aims to retake ISIS-held territory in Syria along the Turkish border that the group has used to move foreign fighters back and forth to Europe. Reuters

Iraq: The UN warned on Wednesday that at least 20,000 children are among those trapped inside the ISIS-held city of Fallujah, which has been under bombardment by Iraqi military forces over the past week. New York Times, ABC

ABC: Observers Fear 'Dirty Brigade' Atrocities After ISIS Fight in Fallujah
Reuters: Islamic State faces major assaults on two fronts in Iraq, Syria
New York Times: Syria, Facing Deadline, Allows Limited Aid to Besieged Town of Daraya

Libya: Two separate militia forces have attacked ISIS held-territory in recent days from both the east and the west along the coast near the city of Sirte. The militias are reportedly aligned with Libya’s UN-backed unity government and have reduced the length of coastline controlled by ISIS to 100 miles, down from approximately 150 miles. New York Times

Mali: Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb militants killed four people in attacks on UN sites in northern Mali on Tuesday. MINUSMA, UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, said on Wednesday that one peacekeeper, two private Malian security guards, and an international expert were killed in attacks on a mission camp in Gao. Newsweek

Egypt: A French naval vessel picked up a signal believed to have come from one of the two EgyptAir Flight 804 black boxes on Wednesday. The cause of the airline crash is still unknown and no terrorist group has claimed responsibility. New York Times

United Kingdom: The parents of the ISIS member known as “Jihadi Jack” have been charged with terrorism offenses. John and Sally Letts allegedly sent their son money for food and glasses after he had left to join ISIS in Syria. They have been charged with three counts of entering an arrangement to make money available, knowing or having reasonable cause to suspect that it may be used for terrorism. BBC

Germany: On Wednesday, the German Cabinet approved a package of new counterterrorism measures. The new proposals, which must be approved by Parliament, seek to enhance information and intelligence-sharing with other governments and expand German police agencies’ ability to go undercover in order to infiltrate smuggling networks. Associated Press
Victim Statements at 9/11 Trials? Not Fair: “The prosecutors have made a serious misstep in the form of a foray into public relations. They’re asking the court to allow public testimony by ten elderly, sick relatives of 9/11 victims this October -- before the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial has begun,” writes Noah Feldman on Bloomberg View. “Prosecutors seem intent on changing the narrative of the trial. The simplest way for them to do so is to focus public attention on the horrific crimes with which the defendants are charged.”

Beyond Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State's HR Files Illuminate Dangerous Trends: “Thanks to the jihadi version of an Edward Snowden data dump, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point now hosts documented evidence of who has joined the Islamic State’s ranks,” writes Clint Watts on War on the Rocks. “When compared to other Islamic State foreign fighters estimates or to the last decade’s foreign fighter flows to Iraq, this new data shows that Europe’s foreign fighter recruitment rate is growing far faster than that of any other region.”

The Millions Left Behind in Afghanistan: “Internal displacement has exploded in Afghanistan in recent years. Today, some 1.2 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to the conflict in the country,” writes Olof Blomqvist on Foreign Policy. “These are the Afghan conflict’s forgotten victims...while the humanitarian situation is worsening by the day, many international governments are less interested than ever.”

For cutting-edge analysis of the geopolitical events shaping global affairs, read today’s TSG IntelBrief: The Graveyard Off the Coast of Libya

Politics and Prose will be hosting a book talk with Karen J. Greenberg, Director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law, on her new book Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State Today, June 2 at 7:00pm.


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